As nationwide protests against the killing of Black Americans by police continue, Inc. has asked Black business leaders in or near hot zones to tell us what they are experiencing.
Kim Prince hails from a family of Nashville hot chicken entrepreneurs. In 2016, she moved from Nashville to Los Angeles and brought the concept with her, in the form of pop-up restaurant Hotville Chicken. Now in a brick-and-mortar location in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall in the heart of South Central L.A., she's been doing a delivery and pick-up business since the pandemic shut down the dining room on March 20. Despite widespread protests in L.A., her neighborhood has been quiet. But she's troubled by the incidents that sparked the demonstrations. Below, she tells her story. --As told to Lindsay Blakely
When the pandemic started, we saw sales drop 70 some percent over one week. After that, I had to think quickly. We started doing pickup and delivery, which we didn't do prior to Covid, and we adjusted our hours. We haven't closed our doors a single day since the pandemic started. Lately, sales have been picking back up, and we will pay a lot of money to pull out all the stops to reopen safely.
Now, we have looting and rioting in L.A., and people ask me if we're going to board up. Board up for what? That's what shatterproof glass and insurance are for.
I come from a long line of entrepreneurs--people who built their businesses in the heart of the Great Depression and in the segregated South, all through the Jim Crow era and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.
I see a parallel with what they went through and what we're going through now.
George Floyd isn't the first African American man to die at the hands of law enforcement, but it was televised. People react in different ways to seeing someone's life being taken. We have rights to protest and to rally and to gather peacefully. There are people out there who want to be heard. Justice must happen.
But uprisings are not the definition of solidarity to me.
I watched on TV how people in Long Beach were walking in and grabbing stuff from CVS and Target like they just did something great.
People in L.A. have hit up restaurants like Nancy Silverton's Mozza. Nancy is someone other businesswomen like me watch carefully. The fact that they hit her restaurant is really unsettling to me. I think. "But for the grace of God, this could be me."
All over America, people are terrorizing communities they don't live in. A lot of them are White. I saw on the news a young Black woman with a bullhorn yelling no, crying for people to stop looting, because she knew people were only going to blame Black people.
Where is the leadership in this country to get everybody together?
Yes, I'm concerned about my property. I was taught to respect people's property. But I was also taught to respect their lives as well.
My heart goes out to George Floyd's family.
My heart goes out to all Black men. The "Central Park Karen" incident is unfortunately a common thing for members of the Black community. I see White women clutch purses more tightly when my nephew who works here brings food to them.
The young men who work in my care, I can see that anxiety that comes upon them when they leave a secured space like work or school. They know they have a target on their backs. They know they have to govern themselves differently than people who don't look like them.
Being Black, we have to be extra careful about what we do and say, about our body language, how we drive. Yes, I grip the steering wheel more tightly when I see a Black and white car behind me. And yes, I believe systemic racism has kept me from certain things, kept me from funding.
But burning down a police station, that's very unsettling to me to see.
Police often park in the view of our restaurant. Their presence brings calm to me here in the mall. I also introduced myself to the fire department. They come in here to eat all the time. My character is to serve all people and be kind and do unto others. I'm grateful for everyone who comes through our doors.
We have to rebuild trust in both directions--and that takes a dialogue with the police and community leaders. There's got to be more of a relationship, and we need that relationship to be healthy.
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